Welcome to the Heartwood Hotel, a deluxe resort inside a hollowed out tree that caters to the needs of all the small critters of Fernwood Forest. Author Karllie George has created a charming animal world that readers will fall in love with. To launch this new series, Disney Hyperion has simultaneously released the first two installments in the Heartwood Hotel series.
The magic begins in Heartwood Hotel: A True Home where a small mouse named Mona loses her home in a bad fall storm. On a scary run through the woods at night, she stumbles upon a tree with a heart carved into the side. Pushing on it reveals a door to a luxury hotel with different levels for different kinds of animals. The proprietor, a badger named Mr. Heartwood, has a big heart and give Mona a job as a maid and a room. It’s not all fun and games and Mona has to work hard at her job and to get her new roommates approval, but she just might discover that the Heartwood Hotel could be the best home she’s ever had.
The next book finds Mona and her Heartwood friends preparing for winter in Heartwood Hotel: The Greatest Gift. Before some of the hibernating guests go down for their long naps, Mona experiences her first gift exchange and feels horrible that she didn’t know to get gifts for all her friends. At night, she secretly weaves a new rug for the lobby while tending to their most difficult guest, a duchess rabbit who lives a selfish life. But when winter rations run short and Mona discovers a rogue orphanage nearby, she and the duchess will work together to discover the best gift of all.
Recommended for ages 7 to 10, these books would also make great bedtime stories for parents who like to read a chapter or two to their kids before bed. The illustrations by Stephanie Graegin are so charming and in concept, the books often reminded me of classic animal stories like The Wind in the Willows. I am also charmed by the fact that each book is a season and the both end with a preview of the next in the series.
The Heartwood Hotel series is able to approach some more mature concepts in a kid friendly way. The books talk about “Hurts,” aka things in the past that made you feel bad for a long time. They also touch on themes such as economic gaps, loss of a parent, and bullying. All of it is done with a soft and subtle approach, but it will certainly help kids who feel isolated by these feelings and may even be used as a way in which parents can approach these subjects with their kids in a relatable way.
I loved spending time at the Heartwood Hotel and am curious to see what the next adventure entails. The third book is called Heartwood Hotel: Better Together and is expected to be released next February just before the start of spring. And with fall just around the corner, its the perfect time for your kids to get started with book one.